“Our life here is not a test of our resolve to see if we will do the right things, but an invitation to become part of what God wants to restore” (Forming: A Work of Grace, p.50).
Most of my early Christian life was characterized by my efforts to prove myself worthy to God. I tried to do what was “right” because I wanted to be judged well when my time came to stand before the throne and be scrutinized for my behavior while on earth. God had apparently designed life here to be a big test. He came in the form of Jesus to give us a fighting chance, but then He left and went back to heaven to see how well we could do with the instructions He left behind.
Of course, the predictable outcome of this was a perpetual state of self-disgust and the belief that God was seriously disappointed in me. All despite the fact that I congratulated myself on being a better student of the Bible than most of my peers.
What a miserable way to live! As Paul said, neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear the load of living up to God’s standard of holiness. But I was stuck, because the only alternative I could see was to treat God’s standard dishonorably and to disregard His demands for obedience.
What I missed completely was God’s intention to be actively involved in my life! He never meant for us to live as if He was watching from a distance. That sounds more like deism than the Christian life. According to John 14-17, Jesus meant for our relationship with Him to continue and to grow even though He no longer had a fleshly body. When Paul talks about God working in us, he is not coining a new euphemism for trying hard to be good. Paul is describing an interaction between us and God that we actually experience and have conscious awareness of — a work in which God truly reshapes our character to become more Christ-like, one step at a time, as we learn how to participate with what He wants to do in us.
God means for each one of us to be first-fruits of the restorative work He is doing on the planet. He rescues us, speaks life into our very soul, and restores all that the enemy has destroyed, piece by piece, so that we can know that we know — God is at work to bring us to Himself.